Gran Torino Review

Published 6 years ago by , Updated January 9th, 2009 at 8:38 am,

Short version: It’s really very simple: If you’re a Clint Eastwood fan going way back, you’re going to LOVE Gran Torino.

gran torino review Gran Torino Review
Screen Rant reviews Gran Torino

You know I’m getting pretty used to taking heat for my movie reviews, and I have no doubt that it’ll happen again for this review of the Clint Eastwood written and directed film, Gran Torino. But you know what? I don’t care, and I don’t apologize for my reviews. You may be entitled to your opinion, but you know what? So am I – like it or not. So… onward.

Gran Torino is the story of Walt Kowalski, an old veteran of the Korean War. As the film opens we see that his wife has just died, and within seconds of his appearance we know exactly what sort of character Walt is: a cranky, grizzled (and racist) old timer who despises what’s become of the people in the world around him.

He sneers at his disrespectful teenage grandchildren who show up at the funeral making jokes, texting on their phones and dressed inappropriately. The relationship between Walt and his two sons is strained at best and there is not much patience or empathy heading in either direction.

The neighborhood he’s lived in for well over 30 years is no longer populated by lower middle class white folks, but has turned into an Asian neighborhood – much to his chagrin. A Hmong family lives next door: A grandmother, single mother and her two teen kids – Thao (played by Bee Vang) and Sue (Ahney Her). Thao is quiet and intelligent but utterly shy, while Sue is very outgoing and fearless.

The local Asian gang wants to recruit Thao whether he wants in or not, and he doesn’t. Unfortunately you don’t just say “no” to a gang and being the weak fellow he is, they talk him into trying to steal next door neighbor Walt’s mint 1972 Gran Torino. Walt stops him but Thao gets away unrecognized.

Soon the gang is back one night to forcibly take Thao with them, and Walt comes out with his 50 year old rifle and chases them off. Eventually he learns that Thao was the boy who broke into his garage, and reluctantly takes him on to work off his bad deed (at the urging of Thaos’s mother).

Eventually Walt sees the good and potential in Thao and takes it upon himself to show him how to be a man and try to help him steer clear of the gang.

Eastwood is just great to watch in this film – he has the greatest snarl in this movie, and he uses it often and to great effect. He’s totally convincing as the retired old war vet who’s seen it all and is pretty much afraid of nothing. As a matter of fact at one point in the film I actually decided that this was basically another Dirty Harry film, much like last year’s Rambo – revisiting a familiar character after many years in order to show us what happened to him.

Of course he wasn’t really Harry Callahan, but it didn’t take much of a leap to swap characters and end up with pretty much the same movie. The way he confronts trouble is awe-inspiring. In particular there’s one scene (that ends up very funny) where he comes up against three African-American men who are harassing Sue – it’s classic.

Now, I’ll tell you – there’s nothing “cinematically amazing” about this film. No “cutting edge” direction or camera angles or visual effects or anything else. What you have is Clint “I’m still a bad ass at 78″ Eastwood, great characters and a great story. Depending on how good or bad I consider a movie, when assigning it a “score” (which I’m regretting more and more these days – people get caught up in the numbers) I go one of two ways:

  • If it’s awful, I start at zero and start looking for worthwhile things about it that will add “points.”
  • If it’s great, I start at the top and look for things that maybe didn’t work here and there and deduct from there.

In this case I started at the top, but I couldn’t think of anything that I didn’t like about the film or struck me the wrong way – so there you have it: 5 out of 5 stars from me.

Now yes, of course… Walt is a racist, hurling every sort of ethnic slur you can think of – but the point is that he learns to look past his prejudices and sees people for who they are, not for their race or heritage. And if you’re a long time Clint Eastwood fan based on the hard-edged character he played back in the Dirty Harry and spaghetti western days you’ll really enjoy this.

On the other hand (and I know I’m generalizing) if you’re on the young side, you’ll probably think he’s a cranky old bastard and what’s he getting so fired up about.

There is plenty of foul language in the film and violence as well – It’s rated R, so leave the kiddies at home.

Our Rating:

5 out of 5

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  1. I knew this movie was going to be great.

  2. It is a fantastic film. Clint’s pretty funny in it as well.

  3. I know he was openly racist in the movie, but I thought he was such a loveable racist. Because while he would say all of these really unacceptable things, his actions are pure and seem motivated by good… then he’ll follow those actions up with a racist slur…

    I’m actually Asian, but I wasn’t at all insulted at his derogatory asian remarks. I actually understand where he’s coming from. His entire neighborhood has been taken over by foreigners and he has a very strong patriotism and love of country that he can’t overlook. I can empathize with that.

    Even though it is officially a January release, my theater was one of the limited theaters they released this on in December, so I saw it in 2008, that’s why I consider it one of the best movies I’ve seen in 2008. Clint Eastwood is the man.

    “I’ll blow a hole in your face, and then I will go back in my house, and I’ll sleep like a baby.”

    LOL, classic…

  4. “Eventually he leans that Thao was the boy who broke into his garage”

    I think leans is suppose to be learn. correct me if im wrong. Im looking forward to this movie. Clint Eastwood is one of the best actors of his time so im looking forward to this movie.

  5. Walt should be in the White House! (Hmmm…. maybe that could be a Pun.)

    Oh, well.

    -Back to my new Repulsors! -Stark

  6. All of Clint’s movies, barr none, are about everyday people with problems of their own, that have the courage to rise up and do what’s proper, despite the consequences. They always show a hero that’s never BAD, but never totally good, just like regular people. That’s what I love about his movies, and many do not even have what you’d call a Hollywood happy ending. Clint rules.

  7. When is Clint NOT awesome?? :D Looking forward to seeing it

  8. @Jess H

    Gah! Thanks for finding that typo. That’s what I get for writing a review at 11:30 at night after a full day.


  9. 5/5 ? This movie was great but the review COMPLETELY ignored the HORRIBLE HORRIBLE HORRIBLE acting by the supporting cast. Eastwood is great is ever, but it’s literally a PAIN to watch the younger “actors” (especially the girl) try to “act”. These kids couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag. I’m not an “acting” snob, I love watching Stalone, Van Damme, Arnold, etc. But this is one of the few movies that made me cringe.

    Great movie, horrible acting by the supporting cast, does NOT deserve a 5/5.

    That is my opinion, but watch it for sure and make up your own mind.

  10. I also loved the film. In many ways Vic this will be for Clint fans what The Shootist was for John Wayne fans. I loved that film also as its one of my all time favorite movies. I would give Gran Torino a 4.5 out of 5. As far as the bad acting criticism by some. I will agree that some of the acting in the beginning was shaky, but it got much better as the film went on. I totally bought all the characters. This is a way over blown issue by some. This is a TREAT for Clint fans who grew up on his work. One of 2008 best films and I hope Eastwood gets an Oscar nomination for best actor.


  11. @Ogb

    Really? I thought the supporting cast did a decent job. I do appreciate you sharing your thoughts.


  12. Well, I’m convinced to go now! I had thought about skipping this but I can’t do it now.

  13. Granted there is nothing cutting edge here, but that is not what makes a great movie! Pure class! This is classic filmmaking at it’s best, substance over style and this is, imo, the best movie of 08!
    I found this movie to be what Clint was talking about in the article, about the way this generation is. The picture is more like a teaching on how to be Man and how to deal with this world using Clint’s views. As for the acting, this is probably their first time in front of a camera, add acting with Eastwood! EASTWOOD, think about it! Your first role and with the legend!

    Plus, this movie has the best joke ever! ‘A Mexican, Jew and Coloured Man walk into a bar….’ when you hear it, its great! No, it’s priceless! I’m coloured and I still think that’s the greatest joke ever!

  14. SK47

    I agree with what you said as far as being on the set acting with Eastwood.

    To me, it was really noticeable how the supporting cast was trying to keep up with Eastwood’s acting and Eastwood was holding the movie together with his amazing acting.

    Like I said, this is my opinion and for some reason I just couldn’t buy completely into the movie, which is unusual for me, because of the acting.

  15. You had me worried at the beginning of your review. I am really looking forward to seeing this one, and I thought you were going to say it’s an all-out stinker. Judging from your review and commentary, it sounds just like what I thought it would be. Thanks!

  16. @SK47

    “substance over style”

    Damn, why didn’t I think to use that in my review? :-)


  17. @sito

    That was based on the reaction to a couple of other reviews I’ve written that turned out to be controversial (although I certainly didn’t think they were).


  18. Sweet – I’m watching it tonight Vic, you set my expectations high so I best not be disappointed ;)

  19. This movie was great. I got a hold of a DVD Screener about two months ago and was blown away. I am not a fan of Clint never have been, but I loved this movie. I wouldn’t give it a 5, but It would of easily been very close to that.

    I thought the supporting class did very well and I am an acting snop I hate Van Damn, Stallone and Arnold. I am a huge acting snob if it’s bad I hate. I thought they did well. Now if your trying to compare them to a veteran like Eastwood than of course most people are gonna come off looking less than steller. What do you expect?

  20. Vic 5 out of 5

    Are you saying that for this type of film that it is a perfect movie? If you are saying that then I can’t friggin’ wait to see this film!!!

    I love Unforgiven, Outlaw Josie Wales, Pale Rider, I could go on and on..

    Really though 5 out of 5?

  21. I think he’s saying he started with 5 out of 5 and started deducting points for things he did not enjoy. This does not mean there are no problems, just none big enough to hinder the enjoyment, so no deductions.

  22. @greenknight

    What Ken said. :-)

    *I* couldn’t find anything wrong with it and I enjoyed it without reservation, hence the score. Don’t know if it’ll be the same for you.


  23. Lol, I can’t believe I’m the only one that was so put off by the acting in this movie.

    Oh well. Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.

    But as someone mentioned, no matter how you look at it, this is not a perfect movie.

    5/5 is a score based on the Critic’s (Vic’s) personal opinions.

  24. @Ogb

    LOL, as I said, it’s MY review and what I thought of it. :-)

    Actually I’m pretty sensitive to bad acting and I didn’t get that at all from the film.


  25. I have no problem with that, I like these kinds of discussions, that’s why I come here.

    I can’t stand self-important critics that act as if their OPINION is fact as much as I can’t stand people that will let a critic’s opinion keep them away from seeing a movie.

    Anyway, didn’t mean to rant. I hear you on the 5/5 for a movie you loved.

    I gave Mortal Kombat 5/5 (and still do) but most people hate it.

  26. Thanks for the clarification Ken and Vic..I look forward very much to seeing this film.. :)

    Cheers to you both !!

  27. Geez I sounded like Yoda a little there..

  28. I loved this movie it was like Archie Bunker on the big screen it was a heart touching movie the dialog was funny as hell the only thing I didn’t like was Thao kinda acted wooden when he started talking I thought I was watching star wars 1-2 or 3 haha other than that 4 stars

  29. Ogb, the first Mortal Kombat is awesome, lol. It was cheesy and corny, but I used to play the games all the time so it was a very cool video game movie. Most other video game movies suck. All of the sequels SUCKED though…